MOSCOW -- Five people were killed by an explosion inside a passenger bus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, officials said Monday.
Officials said the explosion was set off by a female suicide bomber, and Russia’s Investigative Committee revealed the name of the suspect as Naida Asiyalova.
[Updated, 7:32 a.m. PDT Oct. 21: Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee, later gave a different spelling of the name, identifying the bomber as Naida Akhiyalova, 30, of Dagestan. “A survivor saw her entering the bus at a bus stop and the explosion happened shortly after that,” he said.]
She is believed to be the wife of a North Caucasus rebel commander, TV news network Rossiya-24 reported, citing Investigative Committee official Valery Safonov.
City officials said there were 40 passengers on the bus and that 32 of them were injured. Of those, 20 were hospitalized, three in critical condition, they said. Most of the victims were students of Volgograd State University, Gazeta.ru, an online publication, reported.
“An explosive device that went off inside a passenger bus at [2:05 p.m.] today in Volgograd caused human casualties,” Dmitry Parvlov, a spokesman for the National Anti-terrorist Committee, told Rossiya-24. He said authorities were working to prevent other possible explosions in the city.
Markin said authorities have initiated investigations into a terrorist attack, murder and illegal arms possession in connection with the blast.
Rossiya-24 showed dramatic images taken from a vehicle behind the bus at the moment of the explosion. In the video, flames break out from the right side of the bus and it is immediately consumed by a cloud of smoke and debris flies out of both sides of the vehicle.
An eyewitness who gave his name as Ivan told the news network that he was driving behind the bus when an explosion rocked the vehicle, blowing away its doors and shattering its windows.
“People were falling and jumping out of the bus,” Ivan, whose last name was not disclosed, said over the phone to Rossiya-24. “They were in shock, and some were bleeding.”
Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, is an industrial regional capital, about 620 miles southeast of Moscow. It is not far from the volatile North Caucasus region where terrorist attacks and combat operations happen on a regular basis.
In recent years, thousands of North Caucasus residents have moved elsewhere in the country as they fled the violence. Many of them settled in the Volgograd region.
Muslim female suicide bombers, often referred to in Russia as black widows, have committed numerous terrorist attacks across the country since 2000, when President Vladimir Putin crushed the rebellion in Chechnya in a massive military operation that killed thousands.
In March 2010, two young women from Dagestan exploded themselves in two Moscow metro underground trains, killing 40 people and injuring more than 100.
[For the Record, 8:32 a.m. PDT Oct. 21: An earlier version of this post identified Valery Safonov as a North Caucasus rebel commander. He is a law enforcement official with Russia’s Investigative Committee.]